Diabetes (DM) is increasingly prevalent in modern western society. Just above 11% of the United States (US) population is living with DM. Furthermore, 38% of the US population ages 18 and over and 48% of the population ages 65 and over are living with prediabetes (a condition associated with DM symptoms (ie, high blood sugar levels) that predisposes individuals to developing DM). Poor management of DM is associated with increased hospital visits, likely hood of developing heart disease, chronic kidney disease and vision problems, increased mortality, and overall decreased quality of life. Adopting healthy behaviors, strictly managing blood sugar levels, and routine visits with a doctor and dietitian can reduce the negative consequences of the disease.
There are two types of diabetes: Type I and Type II. Both types result from the bodies inability to utilize and store sugar through the action of insulin (a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels). Typically, the pancreases no longer produces insulin (or enough insulin) in order to utilize the sugar in the body. Then the extra sugar is passed to areas in the body where sugar is not typically needed resulting in damage to that area. In Type I, the cause is often unknown and signs/symptoms are common around childhood and adolescence. In Type II, the disease results from over use and exhausting of the pancreas (the organ that produces insulin) and/or the inability of the muscles and organs to utilize sugar and insulin properly. Type II is more common in overweight/obese adults and older adults; however, the prevalence in the young adult and child population is increasing as well.
People living with diabetes require administration of exogenous insulin in order to utilize the carbohydrates (sugars). Insulin is administered based on the insulin-to-carb ratio (which varies according to the type of insulin). For example, one insulin-to-carb ration may be 1:10 or 1:15. In these cases, 1 unit of insulin needs to be administered when consuming 10 or 15 grams of carbohydrate. Additionally, some medications vary in the time that they need to be administer and their effect duration. Failure to adhere to correct ratio and timing of medications can result in hypo-/hyperglycemia which can have devastating consequences short- and long-term. Long-term adherence can be measured through Hemoglobin A1C testing to better tailor medications, diet, and physical activity to the individual’s needs.
Diabetes can be difficult to navigate and manage for those who desire an active lifestyle; however, with a few tips and tricks, these individuals can safely take on nearly any physical activity regimen. The goal for people with diabetes during activity is to maintain consistent blood glucose levels. Typically the athlete will want to start with and maintain a slightly greater blood glucose level, as the glucose level will decrease as the activity is performed. As the activity is continued, it is important to monitor blood sugar frequently and consume carbs as needed to support the duration and intensity of the activity. Regular physical activity (at least 150 minutes/week) and weight management (maintaining or reducing weight through proper dieting behaviors) lowers the risk of experiencing adverse symptoms, hospitalizations, and the severity of the disease. Furthermore, these behaviors can prevent and reverse the development of type II in healthy and prediabetic population.
Given increasing prevalence, diabetes is a disease everyone should familiarize themselves with. Strict management of blood sugars allows for adoption both healthy behaviors and lifestyle. Those who do not have diabetes or prediabetes can prevent it’s development through adoption of a balanced diet and lifestyle. Education and care through a multidisciplinary team (doctor + dietitian) can drastically reduce complications, both short- and long-term. If you have questions about diabetes contact myself or a doctor that specializes in DM and get a tailored health plan today!